By Brandon Martin
Coming together to combat violence and supporting each other was a common theme of remarks made by member of Martinsville City Council as they responded to a Feb. 5 shooting incident at El Norteno Mexican Restaurant.
Two men — Keilo Martin, 23, and Shavon Reid, 33, both of Martinsville — died at the scene following an altercation, according to reports by the Virginia State Police.
“What happened last Friday night is tragic,” said Mayor Kathy Lawson. “That is not the normal for our community. We have a very safe community. It is unfortunate, it is sad. We need to be in prayer for these families. They are grieving. We do not need to be pointing fingers. We need to lift them up with encouragement and support because their lives have been changed.”
Council Member Chad Martin attended the candlelight vigil held near the restaurant, which is currently closed.
Seeing “the great turnout they had to support that family was a beautiful thing to see, but this has to stop,” he said. “Not just in Martinsville, but globally, this violence has really got to stop. My heart and my prayers are with those families that are hurting right now.”
Council Member Tammy Pearson called on the community to come together.
“I know that my family and I have been in prayer for all of those impacted, as well as our community as a whole,” she said. “I also want to sincerely work with the citizens, community leaders, civic organizations, churches and any others to work together to bring an end to violent and destructive behavior in our city. I think it is important that we bring together all the races, genders, ages and all of our citizens to talk openly and honestly about this and find solutions.”
Vice Mayor Jennifer Bowles said the incident isn’t indicative of the city.
“I’ve seen many negative comments about the City of Martinsville. I really hope those citizens and individuals will take a moment to realize this is not just a Martinsville issue. Our city really is a great place to live. Don’t let one incident define our entire city,” she said.
Bowles added that the incident is also not validation of stereotypes that people may hold about those involved in the incident.
“Also, I’ve seen and heard comments specifically about black people━that we are all thugs and criminals,” Bowles said. “For those that think that one incident defines the entire black community, they are wrong. I’m not condoning violence or excusing the violence, but don’t let the one incident be what you see all black people as. Black people are not monolithic. We don’t all think the same, act the same, do the same things, and one black person cannot speak for the entire black community.”
Bowles said the pain also shone a light on law enforcement and their efforts during the incident.
“A small bright side from this event can be for our police department,” she said. “As we see nationwide, there are many controversial shootings and things that happen. I want to thank our police department for handling the situation the way it was supposed to be handled. I want to thank our police officers for truly, sincerely and genuinely embodying the mentality of community policing.”
Council Member Danny Turner said many constituents echoed that sentiment.
“I had a number of citizens ask me to tell the police chief that they were very, very appreciative of the heroism of the one city policeman who rushed into where shots were being fired,” Turner said. “His actions probably saved many lives. He truly is a hero. I’m sure there are many more on the force that would run towards the danger.”
As the community attempts to heal, Lawson asked residents to remain resilient.
“As a community, we need to be positive, and that is what I’m asking that everyone please do,” she said.